Finland one of most discriminatory countries in EU, shows survey

Shortly after the article “Finland one of most discriminatory countries in EU, shows survey” was posted on the Facebook page of Helsinki Times, it sparked great attention and interest among the readers, who commented on the subject by sharing details of their own experiences with discrimination in Finland. 

The article “Finland one of most discriminatory countries in EU, shows survey”, published on 11 December 2017 on the Helsinki Times website, reported on a survey by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights that found discrimination remains a union-wide problem in all domains of life.

Quite shockingly, the survey identified Finland as one of the countries in which people of immigrant and minority background are more likely to experience discrimination than almost anywhere else in the EU. According to FRA, about 500 people of ethnic minority group backgrounds were questioned for the survey around the greater Helsinki area. Another key finding of the survey was that respondents indicated that immigrants living in Finland encountered a high rate of discrimination when they were looking for work and when accessing public and private services (EU-MIDIS II report). 

Shortly after the article “Finland one of most discriminatory countries in EU, shows survey” was posted on the Facebook page of Helsinki Times, it sparked great attention and interest among the readers, who commented on the subject by telling about their own experiences with discrimination based on people’s background in Finland. The article on the Facebook profile was viewed 53000 times, shared 180 times and commented by hundreds of people. 

The very first comment in response to the HT article was posted by Tanja, who said that during her 32 years of living in Finland she has never experienced any discrimination. She continued writing that “Finland is not a paradise. […] But you know that this country is one of the best countries to live and for many much better than their country of origin, where women have the same rights, where children regardless of their background can get free education and free medical care, where every expectant mother gets Maternity package, maternity leave, baby care allowance, child support, where everyone gets a support from the government and many other benefits about which in many countries people are only dreaming of”. Also Niklas agreed with Tanja’s point of view, commenting that “I haven't experienced any discrimination during my time here. I think these instances of racism and discrimination are over-reported and exaggerated”. David also voices his concerns regarding the EU report, stating that “This article and research is nonsense. Finland is the first country I have travelled to where I have been made to feel the most welcome, and I am from Ireland. I now proudly live, work and teach here.” And while another reader, Kafil, hasn’t faced any discrimination in his almost 10 years of living in Finland, confirmed the results presented in the EU report: “I didn’t face discrimination in Finland apart from job market even though I speak B2 level Finnish.” The “anti-discrimination in Finland”-comments were seen somewhat controversial, as could be seen by the numerous counterarguments that instigated a heated discussion.

One of the strongest opinions about discrimination in Finland was expressed by Aleksi, who based on his account had encountered quite traumatic events. He wrote: “I was born, raised and have my home here in Finland. For all of my life I have been discriminated (33 years). An average every four years I get my bones broken in an assault by a racists person. Don't even ask me about the education or job in Finland. I have been always bullied by my teachers from my first grade to university. Because my excellent knowledge of this culture no one would even know that I wasn't a native Finn, if I was a bit paler and had a different surname. I'm not going to fake myself or pretend to be someone else. It is a great place for children, women and elderly. Not any good for a brownish man in working age.” Another disturbing experience was shared by Liz, who wrote “I experienced serious racism in Finland, stuff I haven't seen since the 70s in England. But interestingly not at work. It was during the day, when I was off work that I had negative experiences. I even had an older woman spit at the ground in front of me in Helsinki.” 

The EU report’s key result that discrimination remains a major concern especially in the domain of job-seeking resonated with many readers and resulted in a lively discussion. Karolina made the observation that Finland “is not a country where you can meet a person of Somali or Iraqi origin working in a bank or in a city administration, as it is e.g. in Sweden.” Havka shared the details of her own experience: “I had to leave Finland due economic reasons. I was unemployed longer than 1 year. I hold a degree in finance with an average result A+ and didn't find any sort of job. I'm half Finnish and half Bosnian, and due my foreign name I've been told via phone that "we don't hire Negros"... Hmm, excuse my foul mouth, but what the f*ck! I was born and raised in Finland, I speak fluent Finnish since I'm native and top on that 5 other languages.”  Gangleri responded to the comment and posted the following: “I struggled with the reality of being the immigrant in this country. […] I also stubbornly had to accept that without learning the language, my job opportunities became even fewer and finally, yes, there are discriminatory factors amongst some Finn's.” Karina sympathises with this concern, saying “I was told several times that it will be more difficult for me to get a job because I am not Finnish. if there would be a Finn with exactly the same education and experience, most probably he/she would be chosen, not me.” Andres has a valid point when writing “Normal. Look what is happening in rest of Europe.” 

Writing and talking about discrimination based on people’s background is a sensitive issue and a difficult subject to approach from either side of controversy. Exchanging opinions, ideas and even traumatic experiences, as it was done on HT’s Facebook page, can be one of the many steps to talk openly about such a sensitive matter. As Mariana put it: “Everyone has a different threshold for discrimination as it is clear from the responses to the material. […] I admire Finns for trying to be reflective and observe due process and transparency as much as possible. Therefore, thanks for the material.” 


Franka Kermer 

Helsinki Times

Finland in the world press

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